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Analytics Thought Leadership a la ThoughtSpot and Condoleezza Rice

by Cindi Howson  |  November 7, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

Analytics and BI is a crowded market. So what’s a new vendor to do to get on people’s radar? Bring in some serious star power courtesy of Condoleezza Rice and Tiki Barber. ThoughtSpot’s New York event last month was sold out with over 500 attending.

What struck me most about the event is the number of prospects who were doing POCs and even those attending who had never heard of  ThoughtSpot but came anyway. ThoughtSpot was a Gartner Cool Vendor in 2016 and new to the 2017 BI and Analytics MQ. The event was refreshingly long on thought leadership and light on pushing the product. Perhaps that is why most stayed the full afternoon, even after Professor Rice had finished speaking.


I had never heard Condoleezza Rice speak before, except in her role as Secretary of State. I am now a groupy and researching ways to go back to school to take her class at Stanford. (Alas she only accepts 25 students a semester out of 100+ students; my chances of landing a spot are slim.) Her opening Q&A with ThoughtSpot CEO Ajeet Singh covered everything from education to world politics to dealing with millennials and whether or not college football players should be paid.

Her advice to the private sector:  work together to solve these big data problems of privacy and digital disruption,  otherwise governments will regulate and do not necessarily understand the technology.

Classes she wishes every student took for the digital age:

  • Writing: Her students have to write a five page paper every week. Some can no longer read cursive handwriting (her comments back to them). Few are able to articulate their ideas well.
  • Statistics: Because too few people recognize the difference between correlations and causation. I’m all in for this one, but our high schools and universities still ask for calculus over statistics. I lost that battle with both my children.
  • Basic coding: So everyone understood more how technology and the infrastructure works; the cloud is not just some box sitting under an engineer’s desk. I like this. Can we just call it “basic technology,” though; because coding is not for everyone.
  • World civilization: Maybe if we studied more the civilizations that failed, it would prevent some of the hubris in countries and corporations. For sure, it is staggering to me that only 12% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 are still Fortune 500 today. Nobody is too big or too important to fail.

If you’ve been following my blog or tweets for a while, you know, we are Packers fans in our house (yes, despite our difficult season L). So while I live in Giant’s territory and had heard of Tiki Barber, I hadn’t followed his football career or work before.

I found it fascinating:  he uses social media analytics to match former pro players to events (@Thuzio). He discovered his love of data and analytics already in college as it helped him figure out which plays would work best on the field, statistically speaking. He also sees potential for sensors from helmets to help improve concussion prevention.

Beyond the star power, there were deeper talks on analytics by a range of experts:

  • Brad Peterson, Nasdaq CIO talked about the challenges of recruiting analytics expertise and data scientists. They now are building facilities in Boston, Sydney, and Bangalore because that is where the talent is, near universities.
  • Vinod Ravi, MD Anderson Cancer Center talked about their TRA Big Data Platform. The value in healthcare analytics is for patients to live longer and better. And yet, it is hard to get quality data in healthcare versus transactions. They constantly have to model outcomes on incomplete data sets.

For me, the best part of any industry event is hearing from customers – their journeys from POC to purchase and why this particular vendor.

  • Ramesh Vanapalli, Director of Analytics and BI from Tracfone, described how ThoughtSpot helped identify millions of dollars in savings. He hadn’t believed the value from the demo alone. Tracfone threw a challenge back to ThoughtSpot and they were sold on the product on one use case.
  • John Coaster, Director of Analytics at Fannie Mae, suggested that analytic leaders should not view ThoughtSpot as just another BI tool; It’s not for the power users of other BI tools, he suggested. He described an interesting use of data pre and post the recent hurricanes.
  • Will Scheck, Caterpillar, Dealer Analytics described how the product has opened up new use cases to new users.

In that regard, I thank any customer who so candidly shares their insights – the good, the bad, the lessons learned, whether on a panel, a call, or even in our just-finished MQ survey.

These notes capture secrets to success from our Data and Analytics Excellence Award Winners:

How to Enable Self-Service Analytics and Business Intelligence: Lessons From Gartner Award Finalists

Digital Business Needs Good Information Governance: Lessons From the Gartner Data & Analytics Excellence Awards

Building the Modern Data Management Infrastructure: Gartner Excellence Awards Lessons

Beyond all these great customer insights, I left NY thinking how lucky I am. This job and career has brought me so many inspirational stories and opportunities to meet bright people.  Gartner is always hiring, in case you are looking!


Cindi Howson



Additional Resources

Predicts 2019: Data and Analytics Strategy

Data and analytics are the key accelerants of digitalization, transformation and “ContinuousNext” efforts. As a result, data and analytics leaders will be counted upon to affect corporate strategy and value, change management, business ethics, and execution performance.

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Category: business-analytics  business-intelligence  data-and-analytics-strategies  

Cindi Howson
Research VP
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Cindi Howson is a Research Vice President at Gartner, where she focuses on business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Her work includes writing about market trends, vendors and best practices and advising organizations on these subjects. Read Full Bio

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